Autopsies On Dead ISIS Fighters More About Cell Phones Than Blood And Guts

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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Technology left behind by dead Islamic State soldiers can provide useful intelligence and clues on the organization’s worldwide operations.

The corpses of ISIS fighters are usually burned after their fingerprints and DNA are registered unless relatives come forward and claim the remains. The electronic devises they carried at the time of their deaths are of much higher value.

More than 120,000 documents and nearly 20 terabytes of digital information were recovered in August when U.S.-backed Syrian rebel forces recaptured Manbij, an ISIS stronghold in northern Syria.

Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the coalition fighting ISIS, called the date trove “invaluable” to detect future moves by the group.

“If we get a phone off of a dead [ISIS] fighter in Manbij and it has a number of telephone numbers into a particular capital or city around the world, we share that information with the coalition members so that they can conduct their own investigation,” McGurk said at a recent press briefing.

A large number of U.S. intelligence analysts have travelled to Iraq to review stacks of internal ISIS documents expected to be recovered when the city of Mosul eventually falls.

Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said the importance of taking advantage of enemy material is a lesson they “learned the hard way the last time we were in Iraq.”

“[It has helped us] understand what [ISIS is] doing, what it might mean for foreign fighters that have been through there, what it might mean for future plans,” Votel told The Seattle Times. “It’s a lesson we learned the hard way the last time we were in Iraq.”

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